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OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — Two major Bay Area-based players in the health care sector are among the first to pledge a combined $45 million to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recently announced fund to help get homeless people  off the street. 

Executives at Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield of California say having housing is good for people’s health.

“We are members of the community here is companies we have an obligation to try to make the community as vibrant as healthy as it possibly can be,” said Paul Markovich, CEO of Blue Shield of California.

The president and CEO of insurance provider Blue Shield of California can see the evidence of homelessness just blocks from his Oakland office.  

He says having a place to live is a cornerstone of good health.

“This problem — it has so many pernicious effects on people’s lives,” he said. “There’s much lower life expectancy when you don’t have a home. You have a lot more chronic and acute health conditions. It is far less safe to be on the streets, there are a multitude of health issues when you don’t have a home.” 

Earlier this month Newsom said he was including a $750 million fund to help with the homelessness crisis in next year’s budget.  

He called on the private sector to add to it.

Blue Shield of California is kicking $20 million and another Oakland-based company, hospital giant Kaiser Permanente is donating $25 million. 

“We feel like this is a statewide issue. It’s an issue that’s on a scale that is rather an epidemic,” said Kaiser’s John Vu.

The funds could go for things like helping build affordable housing like a 157 unit building under construction for low income families, with 40 units set aside specifically for formerly homeless families.  

Smitha Seshadri is with Bridge Housing, the codeveloper of the project, says the fact that the fund could also help with rent subsidies is important.

“The nine Bay Area counties have all seen huge escalations in the cost of housing, but the price of housing for homeownership as well as rents have escalated at an astounding pace and it’s really impossible, because wages are not keeping up,” Seshadri said. 

The companies making these initial donations hope others in the private sector join them in stepping up to solve this deeply entrenched homeless epidemic. 

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